Oral Arguments on the Wonder Ranch Case were heard at the 9th Circuit on March 29, 2018. The case deals with what is an increasingly common problem: when ranching and farming families are replaced by a new class of "recreational" landowners, less neighborly and less accommodating to the public, intent on locking up public resources. This case deals with an out-of-state landowner buying the Wonder Ranch which is transected by an historic trail. The new owners tried to extinguish the historic use of the trail. The trail had been used for centuries, first by Native Americans, trappers, hunters, hikers, bikers, anglers, packers, and importantly the USFS. The case looks into the gray zone of trying to be polite to those with adverse interests. The law requires Notorious, Hostile or Exclusive Use, while our morality requires efforts to compromise. The USFS's efforts to compromise create the weak link in their case. The Government argues:
"The District Rangers don't have authority to alienate federal interests in land."
But if they turn a blind eye to a new landowner's efforts to extinguish an historic prescriptive easement, is that what they are doing?
A key question, that will determine how much access is lost is from Judge Smith: How long does the public have to acquiesce to the extinguishment of the public's historic prescriptive easements?
See the Oral Argument here: